COVID-19 has altered the world irreversibly and it has forced the translation and interpretation industry to quickly turn to digital technology and associated tools to decrease the disrupting of daily operations.
It has been several months now since multinational corporations and international organizations have started to engage in online video conferencing instead of face-to-face events. Accompanying this has been a change in the way interpretation and translation services have been provided. Both translators and interpreters no longer have face-to-face meetings with clients but have to deal remotely with them instead. What has been most daunting is the role of the interpreter who no longer attends face-to-face events but has to provide interpreting services by listening and observing at online conferences.
What has been made worse for the translators and interpreters is that despite online conferences many annual events have been canceled completely leaving the industry short of work. Many clients even though they had booked translation and interpreting services in advance, are giving force majeure as a way of avoiding paying when the conference or other event is canceled.
Who is gaining throughout the pandemic?
Overall, most Language Service Providers (LSPs) have reported a reduction in demand for their translation services from sectors associated with events, travel, and leisure. However, there are still some areas that need a language service provider and these are in the health sectors where there has reportedly been a 64 percent hike in demand and in other medical sectors such as the life sciences and pharmaceuticals.
In addition, language service providers who were already offering remote services before the start of the pandemic are thriving as companies seek ways to maintain communication with their staff, clients, and the public in general. Zoom, the video conferencing platform, is a good example and its stock has gained considerable value in the past few months as more and more organizations turn to remote working including the use of video conferences. As time progresses many language service providers are encouraging their workers to use videoconferencing while they continue to work from home.
A look into the future
LSPs that are able to offer interpretation services using the online platforms are now in the best position than anyone typically working offline. For most interpreters, this has brought about more emphasis on the use of online platforms which are likely to persist once the pandemic is over.
The move towards remote participation has meant that participants now wish to join in with the conversation on online platforms using their mother tongue so offering accurate translations of speakers’ inputs enables full engagement, inclusivity, thus ultimately raising the chance of the event being successful.
In the long term, remote participation and interpretation may lead to a rise in demand for interpreters, because they tend to be affordable, and easy to organize, particularly for smaller organizations.
Australia’s Royal Melbourne Hospital is a good example as appointments through video interpreting have risen from 10–15 appointments monthly prior to the COVID-19 outbreak to 100–200 per month today.
Even though COVID-19 won’t be here forever, it is likely to have a long-lasting effect on the way interpreters will operate. Interpreting services have to be flexible and resilient so that they are able to meet the demands of the modern digital world. They need to be able to evolve and show that their professional services offer value as well as translation and interpretation expertise.
No one can dispute that online interpretation for conferences, events, seminars, and press meetings are likely to remain well into the future once COVID-19 has been tucked away in the history books as just a memory.